Cross-pollination: Interview with the artist Philiswa Lila

I Fore-Text

This text represent a typed version of a recording documenting Philiswa Lila’s thoughts around the recent  art making workshops presented to a group of autistic adults housed at Lethabo Le Khutso, culminating in an exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum (02 November – 26 November). Great care has been taken to translate the recording verbatim from audio to text. Herein the reader will gather Mme Lila’s ideas around transference of skills as far as visual art is concerned as well as the impact that artists from Lethabo Le Khutso has had on her  as  a practicing artist. It is also hoped that the reader will come to appreciate the fact that the writing tries to center around the interviewee; so the questions were constructed with economy to provoke undiluted calculated responses. Lastly the text is inclusive of verbal interruptions to retain nuances and mood as the interaction between the interviewer and interviewee develops. Welcome to interparadox, in search of an artist.

II The interview

Mmutle Arthur Kgokong: Thank you Philiswa for agreeing to see me uhmm our interview involves umm the workshops that you have presented to Lethabo Le Khutso, but before we get there umm I will like to find out how long have you been involved with the education programme at at the Pretoria Art Museum?

Philiwa Lila: (laughs) Ok, thank you for having me for this interview ehh I started at the museum in 2007 when I sent you an email, of course, asking you if there were any space for students and things like that and so it began with the Preparatory Programme where you trained us to be guides to the museum and then I made it that year and I started doing the guides and also my first workshop was, I was a co-facilitator with Nthabiseng as the main facilitator for educators that same year and it was towards…the middle of the year in April somewhere there

MAK: Umhum…

Philiwa Lila: Yes. So that first experience was ehhmm, I don’t know something unexpected in a way (laughes), I don’t know what to expect from it first time doing a workshop, so ehhmm, I really enjoyed it at the same time and I wanted to continue doing that that’s why I (laughs) I stuck around, you know, doing more of the projects here at the museum and then towards 2008…2009 that’s when I really got involved, I saw the direction of where I wanted to go my self with the art and ahhh, I think here at the museum has helped me doing these projects in the way that you don’t really get tired of what you are doing in terms of the career because us a lot of times people get tired of painting all the time find that at the same time they just give in a way so ummm it has helped me to come up with my own ideas in a way, different, for  different workshops programme at the same time it keeps you thinking for fresh ideas on how you can do something much simpler than what you have learnt at school so yah until know I am still around.


Shifting the boundary: Interview with Nthabiseng Rachel Montshiwa

The NEO Emergence Art Exhibition Curator

This text represent a typed version of a recording documenting Nthabiseng Rachel Montshiwa’s thoughts around the recent NEO Emergence Art Exhibition which she has curated and is on show at the Pretoria Art Museum until 29 October. Great care has been taken to translate the recording verbatim from audio to text. Herein the reader will gather Mme Montshiwa’s journey from being an art student to curator, her philosophy as to what being a curator means, her thoughts on what South African art should focus on as far as content and context are concerned. It is also hoped that the reader will come to appreciate the fact that the writing tries to center around the interviewee; so the questions were constructed with economy to provoke undiluted calculated responses. Lastly the text is inclusive of verbal interruptions and drop ins of Se-Sotho words to retain verbal nuances and moods as the interaction develops and moves.      

–          Mmutle Arthur Kgokong: Today we live in a situation where you having this idea of contemporary art in South Africa or cutting edge and I am wondering what’s your idea in terms of contemporary art, and in terms of cutting edge as far as young artists are concerned in South Africa, um briefly you know, your own opinion, what you think?

–          Nthatbiseng Rachel Montshiwa: I think South African contemporary Art should always mark the social politics there should not be a compromise by the author on what kind of subject matter you focus on and also your technicality must not be compromised because you are looking into new media you should always base your media or medium into what kind of financial background you have and also do not apologize for what you are doing technologically extravagant focus on South African social politics in current issues there shouldn’t  be a compromised on in terms of the artists media or technicalities base you media into what financial background you have.  And also Do not apologize for wanting to be technologically extravagant, I think art is a history tool, it is a historical tool and in this case one should always focus on what’s current what’s affecting us in terms visual language, because an aesthetic is not technicality. An artwork is a message not necessarily a good aesthetic where people should always be enjoying your work but also the reference to it is more important than what you see in a gallery but also taking into consideration that however materials you choose you should always think about presentation because that also puts a space into sort of international market irrespective of what you use you should always have a formal presentation.

–          MAK: So the presentation is very important in terms yah the visual art object in an art exhibition and how the artworks are presented?

–          NRM: So material and technicality aspect is never really an issue because you can always take a rumble and make sense out of it whereas it’s still looks like a rumble. What I like behind each artwork which I present in most cases is the story behind, I don’t like focusing on technicalities or the genres or focusing too much into the historical content of or categories you want to fall in, because we are busy moving forward art is a progress and it’s process, so that kind growth should always be taken into consideration and not necessarily the academical issues because we have also artists from the townships which are not academically awarded so you have these issues white cubes and also presentations of artists who coming from the townships and then you have the privilege already you have a barrier in between that because the way you approach an artwork will never be the same irrespective of where you are coming from artists coming from the townships and artists coming from, so that is why I like the stories because the stories puts everything so clear in the social context rather than looking at the material which an artists use.

–          MAK: Now the recent exhibition the neo emergence art exhibition which is on at the Pretoria Art Museum at the moment. What is the vision behind this exhibition, more especially as far as the future is concerned? What is this exhibition addressing? We know today we have lots of exhibition taking place, why is this exhibition important?

–          NRM: First all Neo Emergence means new or neo in terms of a gift, and also we are not a competition and we are in competitor with any of the other exhibitions that are taking place, either around the museum or in galleries. What we are trying to do is I am a young curator I am trying to be an agent to young emerging artists who have not been staged professionally by any of the art institutions even if they have been shown but not actually under a contract of some sort with any gallery and in this sense it means we are developing the business sense to it where an artists can always approach the business side of it which is Dikaletsa for a website to present their works free of charge and also to get recognized easily because nowadays everybody uses a lot of technology so in this sense in stead of the artist sourcing a representing gallery which is very hard to tap into Dikaletsa is that stage a free floating space where artists can actually market themselves also under my mentorship ‘cause that is my role that is my responsibility to make sure that that these artists are marketed well and also are recognized well whilst they are still young you know. It is like you should recognize a fresh thing before it rots, um so that is what we are doing and in future what we are trying to do we wanna grow as a mentorship space where artists can actually suggest different kinds of art projects either educative or in terms of exhibitions whereby I can always formularise a concept behind an artist’s work and have an exhibition dedicated to that and free of competition or free of too many contracts you know so it should be use friendly to any of the artists that come and approach us to have an exhibition for and we are focusing on um self taught artists, young artists, we are focusing on craftsman we are focusing on emerging artists in a sense that you have been in production for the past three years or four years of your life but have not had any formal exhibitions in your life so that’s where we are coming in and source either funding or source spaces , source the right marketing tool this is where the data base also comes in because a database is the market which will follow an artist you know so as long as you get recognize within this kind of formality where we are a brand then people can easily recognize us by any of the projects that we have because we will be having a logo on top of that so that logo will be a brand in future for other projects.

–          MAK: Now today,… in your own opinion, what do you think the role of the curator is?